TODAY’S READING: Revelation 12–18
The Bible’s final book cannot stop repeating the grand theme of all Scripture, the very sum of history, the passionate heart of God. To fixate on plagues and pestilences is to miss the point. The attention of heaven is on God’s determined plan to glorify Himself through the praise of every people group. This glory is the highest human joy as we exult from the heart by declaring: “Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints! Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, for Your judgments have been manifest” (15:3–4).
In the light of forever—God most glorified by man being most satisfied in Him—judgments and martyrdoms make cosmic sense. They are still fear-inspiring, they still are emotionally devastating, they still cause pain, but we can embrace them, for we see in the clear light of what they usher in, that they are worth it, small prices to pay for the great gain they afford. We still overcome by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimony and by not loving our lives even unto the death. These are not words for the past or for other cultures far from us; these are words for us in the here and now. Mankind is so evil and so rebellious that there is no way forward outside of God’s judgments and gospel martyrdom. The church of today is both embarrassed about her God’s judging of the wicked and confused about Her children’s dying at the hands of the wicked. We want the end to come, but not desperately enough to pay the modest price (all things considered). We must embrace both judgment and martyrdom before we get to the end of the beginning and enjoy a new beginning with no end. Let us not be so shortsighted that we cannot see the insignificant price compared to the glories of the other side.
G. D. Watson wrote of the four ages of man. He called the first age (from Adam to the flood) the age of conscience. Without law, church, or special revelation, man was given the chance to govern themselves and made a terrible mess of it. (A warning to all who think that authority and organization are intrinsically oppressive, for without them man descends into depravity.) The second act is called the age of law, both moral and ceremonial, with Israel as the chosen custodian (from Moses to Christ). This, too, proved a spectacular failure, demonstrating that character cannot be changed by force or instruction. The third age is called the gospel age, which is the space between the two advents of Christ. We have our conscience and the moral law like those before us, yet we also have incarnate God and the Holy Spirit. We have the church, the sacraments, and the endowed authority to evangelize every people. Yet, all is not well. We still live in a fallen world, we still are under duress from temptation and attack, and we still struggle with sin. The wicked men wax worse, and darkness shall increase until Jesus comes.
The end of the Bible gives us great hope that the beginning of the unending age is just about to start. With a clear mind we look out at the wickedness that will cause martyrs and martyrs’ blood that will cry out for judgment. We welcome these horrors, not because we are twisted, but because Scripture helps us see what is beyond them—life forevermore in the presence of Jesus, surrounded by every joyful tribe and every worshiping tongue.